My last article talked about the eight components of a successful Lead-to-Revenue (L2R) framework with brand strategy as the first step in the process.
The above graphic is a simplified illustration of the Brand Awareness Hierarchy and how it contributes to revenue. You first need to become known by the prospect, then liked, then trusted. When you can achieve all three attributes (and keep them), success is assured. While many companies want to jump into the lead generation and revenue parts of the process, you really need to make sure your brand is strong and compelling before you do anything else.
The importance of brand strategy is underscored by the results of our “2017 B2B Marketing and L2R Survey“. Sixty-eight percent of respondents feel that their product or company brand contributes “strongly” or “very strongly” to revenue. Obviously, marketers know how crucial brand building is to meeting revenue goals, but the big question is: Does your existing brand strategy enhance or hinder your revenue performance?
Dictated by the Buyer, not the Boardroom
Keep in mind that in addition to articulating the key benefits of your product or service, the brand strategy must be based on the specific attributes, desires and requirements of your target audience. We often use a “persona-based” approach when segmenting our target prospect universe and do online research to make sure that our messaging lines up with what prospects are looking for and talking about.
When people talk about a company brand, it is often expressed as sort of an abstract concept — for example how we feel about a brand. Actually, a strong brand has monetary value. For instance, it can be a boon to the stock price, making the entire company more valuable. It can be a sales and profit accelerator by helping you sell more products and services at a greater profit margin. As David Reibstein, Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School of Business, stated, “A valuable brand delivers return for the company on two dimensions. Either it allows the company to charge a premium price, or it adds more volume or market share.”
One of our clients was amazed at how their recognition and differentiation problems were solved with brand strategy and the subsequent alignment of their online- and sales-enablement content. We combined online research with prospect interviews to uncover a new brand promise for this leading, B2B software company. The company gained a new specificity within their target audiences and more than doubled website traffic which in turn led to a higher profile in their niche. The client reported that as a result of these efforts, their enhanced brand recognition opened doors to the more profitable prospects in their markets and contributed directly to the bottom line.
Building a Solid Foundation for Sales
The entire revenue-producing machine starts with achieving awareness. Building the rest of your marketing and sales initiatives on top of a weak brand is akin to building a house on a bed of sand. It may work for a while, but will have no chance of sustainable success. That is why it is so essential to define your brand promise as a guidepost against which you can gauge all of your tactical activities.
In my experience, B2B companies often overestimate the strength of their brand. What appears to the CEO or CMO to be an interesting and appealing brand can appear to the outside world as weak or unintelligible. To put this in a different way, what you call your company and how you refer to it (especially on your website) are critical choices to be made early in the L2R process. They must reflect what your customer needs to feel and find when they approach you for a relationship.
If there were a Vince Lombardi Trophy for advertising, it would be named, “The David Ogilvy Trophy,” after the person many consider the founder of modern advertising. What Ogilvy stated decades ago is still true: “Positioning” (Ogilvy’s term for creating the brand promise) “is the most important decision made in promoting a service or product.” The point of an effective lead-to-revenue process is to drive revenue. Your mission will be much easier if you get the branding part right.
So how do you know if you got this right? Here are four key indicators:
- Your sales reps spend less time explaining what your company does and more time helping prospects solve their challenges. This cannot only shrink the sales cycle but also increases your close rate – two huge L2R objectives.
- Prospects that visit your website will stay longer and more of them will convert (e.g. buy or download something).
- Brand equity can be converted to financial equity, expressed in terms of share value, increased market share and opportunities for a merger or acquisition.
- Your branding clarity promotes strategic clarity, which means you have less wasted internal motion and a clear, direct line of attraction to the audience you need.
Six Steps for Branding Success
Assuming your brand strategy has some room for improvement, follow these steps to improve your success:
Know your starting point. You need to start with an assessment of your
current strengths and weaknesses of your brand. We evaluate our
client’s brands. You can download a brand health checklist here. A few
of the variables to consider:
- Your audience. Think carefully about this. Who are you really trying to influence: prospects, customers, partners, shareholders, the board?
- Your strengths and weaknesses relative to the competition.
- What prospects are looking for online. A few hours with your favorite search engine will yield plenty of insights.
- The liabilities of your brand – are there factors here you will need to overcome?
- The freshness of your brand (is it based on what people are buying today or what they were buying years ago?)
- Remove your ego. We want the CEO, founder and exec teams to love the brand; but they need to remember that the people who really count are the company’s prospects and customers. We had a client whose CEO (despite our advice) changed a somewhat dated but functional company name with one based on a reference to historical events from the middle ages. Yes, it was clever and whimsical but perhaps 10 percent of the potential audience got it. Our rule: if you have to explain the brand, it’s a lousy brand.
- Establish the parameters. This is where you establish the scope of the branding project. Is this a tweak or a total re-do? Are you re-branding the company name, a product line or the brand promise/tagline?
- Identify customer and prospect touchpoints. Find (all) of the places where a prospect or customer will be exposed to your brand and make sure you account for each marketing, sales and customer service process. You can accomplish this with a touchpoint map.
- Start with the big picture and narrow your options from there. When strategizing your branding options, don’t get too parochial right away (e.g. selecting the too cute or obvious name). Also remember to fire up the crystal ball to make sure you are branding in a way that serves you five years out, not just today.
- Establish and monitor your brand health metrics. You can’t improve what
you don’t measure. We capture 20 attributes when conducting a brand
health scorecard for clients, some of which are subjective/qualitative
and others which are objective/quantitative. Here are five of the most
- Quantity: How often are people talking about your company and its products or services?
- Quality: Who is talking about you and what are they saying?
- Website traffic: Are you getting more unique visitors and do they spend more time on site?
- Congruence. Congruence is a customer experience (CX) measurement that indicates whether the current brand aligns with your customers’ experience from initial contact through usage of the product or service.
I’ll leave you with a quote (from noted brand strategist Larry Light) that sums up how important the brand strategy is to successful lead-to-revenue: “A brand is more than a trademark. It is a trustmark. A brand is a covenant between the company and the consumer. A trusted brand is a genuine asset.”